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Zoe Wilson has eyes fixed on Olympic place as Ireland begin road to Tokyo

 

Zoe Wilson
Zoe Wilson

By John Flack

One of the enduring images after the women's hockey World Cup final in London last August was the sight of Zoe Wilson wearing a broad smile and proudly peering through a pair of goggles as she was about to receive her silver medal.

Now she has her sights firmly fixed on a new target, as Ireland set out on the long, winding road to Tokyo with the first stage of the Olympic qualification process kicking off at Banbridge on Saturday.

Wilson (22) made history by becoming became the first bespectacled female player to have competed in a hockey World Cup final.

The Belfast Harlequins defender suffers from an eye disorder, just like former Dutch international and Tottenham Hotspur footballer Edgar Davids, who has glaucoma and also wore glasses when playing.

Wilson explained: "My eye condition is sporadic but can be aggravated by direct sunlight, so I originally looked into sports goggles as a back-up to contact lenses.

"They are mainly used for cycling but their advantage is that the design makes for excellent peripheral vision.

"The glasses have small vents to assist with minimal steaming up, so I haven't had any difficulty seeing when it rains."

Ireland, in theory, should have little difficulty in securing the top-two finish they require to progress to the next stage of qualifying for Tokyo, with games scheduled against lower-ranked opposition in the form of Malaysia, Czech Republic and Singapore.

However, Wilson expects the opening game with Malaysia to be tough, even though Ireland beat them 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Kuala Lumpur last year.

She added: "They are a good team and since we last played them, we have changed our style and also improved a lot on things and we expect they will have done likewise."

"It will be our first home international game since the World Cup so we are buzzing to get out there and play the way we know we can.

"The buzz about the World Cup is still around hockey which is great but we have put last summer's success on the back burner and are now fully focused on qualifying for the Olympics."

Meanwhile, Ireland's Under-21s had to settle for silver at the Four Nations tournament in Dublin yesterday after they lost 1-0 to India in the final.

FIH Hockey series fixtures

Saturday: Pool A - Ireland v Malaysia (3pm), Czech Republic v Singapore (5pm); Pool B - Korea v Ukraine (11am), Scotland v France (1pm)

Sunday: Pool A - Ireland v Czech Republic (3pm), Malaysia v Singapore (5pm); Pool B - Ukraine v France (11am), Scotland v Korea (1pm).

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